mud, one’s name is

To say that one’s name is mud is to say that one’s reputation has been besmirched. The phrase dates to at least 1823 when it appears in John Babcock’s (a.k.a. John Bee’s) Slang: A Dictionary of the Turf:

Mud, a stupid twaddling fellow. “And his name is mud!” ejaculated upon the conclusion of a silly oration, or of a leader in the Courier.

Mud has been in use as a noun meaning a fool or idiot since the beginning of the 18th century. From Hell Upon Earth, written in 1703:

Mud, a Fool, or thick skull Fellow.

And it has been used to mean something base or foul since the mid-16th century. From Ninian Win╚Łet’s 1563 Certane Tractatis for Reformatioun of Doctryne and Maneris:

Lat the cleir fayth and credulitie of our elders be na mixing of glar or mude be tribulit.
(Let the clear faith and credulity of our elders be not afflicted with mixing with slime or mud.)

Some suggest that the phrase one’s name is mud is a reference to Dr. Samuel Mudd, who treated John Wilkes Booth’s injuries in the hours after Lincoln’s assassination. Mudd was convicted, some believe unfairly, of conspiracy to murder the president and served four years in prison before being pardoned. As we have seen, however, the phrase was in use more than forty years before Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, so this could not possibly be the origin.

(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd Edition)

Powered by ExpressionEngine
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton